From the Milton Sports Guy:
Raptors 101 Rockets 88
For one of the few times this year if not the first, your Toronto Raptors put forth a full team effort for most of 48 minutes Sunday afternoon.
And lo and behold, good things happened.
It also helped that the Rockets came out half asleep for the 11:30am start (that’s Houston time, kids), unable to hit anything early and falling behind 32-17 after one. After that, the teams essentially traded baskets over the final three quarters — the Raps’ biggest lead was 18 and in the fourth quarter, Houston closed the gap to nine before the Raptors put it away behind Bosh and Turkoglu late.
The Rockets shot miserably in this one — 36.8% from the floor to be exact, including a disgusting 3 of 24 from three point range.
Rocket bloggers blamed the loss simply on poor shooting and Raptor bloggers trumpeted their team’s solid D. The truth lies probably somewhere in the middle. Yes, the Rockets missed a ton of open shots, but the Raptors were working hard and showed energy throughout, keeping the Houston guards at bay (although they simply were unable to handle Carl Landry and Luis Scola who were beasts in the paint).
This was Triano’s best-coached game of the season by far. He pushed the right buttons all afternoon: playing Sonny Weems for close to 30 minutes, inserting Pops Mensah-Bonsu into the game in the second quarter for an energy infusion and leaving Hedo Turkoglu in with five fouls late.
In each case, it was the right call: Weems played solid D on the Houston guards and scored 11 points, the Legend had an impressive series where he rocked the rim on a nice pick and roll and had two spectacular blocks and Turkoglu hit some timely shots late to keep the Rockets from getting too close.
And then there was Jarrett Jack.
I know we didn’t want to start a point guard controversy this year, but Jack has started to find his groove and is finally showing the calibre of play that vaulted him past T.J. Ford on the depth chart at PG in Indiana last year.
He was hitting his shots and playing some D in his third straight start for the injured Jose Calderon. And you know Raptor Nation loved it when he immediately got in Trevor Ariza’s grill after his punk ass swing at DeMar DeRozan.
He almost posted a triple-double (17/8/8) on top of it all and you couldn’t help but wonder how moving him into the starting point guard spot might help this team.
It won’t happen, however. When Calderon comes back, he’ll start. The way Jack was battling yesterday on both ends of the floor however, was impressive. And wouldn’t Jose’s struggles on defense be mitigated by playing more minutes against the opposition’s second unit, just like in ’07 when he was so impressive off the bench?
I think the best we can hope for is that Jose comes back healthy and is inspired to show us just a little more on both ends now that Jarrett’s picked up his play. I like Jose and unlike other Raptor bloggers, don’t think the team should look to trade him. Myself, I would seriously look at reversing the point guards’ roles though — they’ll both get their minutes — both are good players — but it’s all about trying to maximize the matchups and I think Calderon could really dominate off the bench. But then maybe Jose wouldn’t do as well without the A-1 offensive lineup out there…. Who knows, but when your record is 11-15, I don’t think anyone should be immune to revising their role.
Oh, and Chris Bosh finished with a game-high 27 points on an impressive 11 for 19 shooting, and most of those shots were long, fade-away jumpers from outside as he struggled in the paint. And he was knocking them down, again and again.
And Hedo. After being the brunt of much criticism over the past week or so, he was far more aggressive and was looking to get his own game going early, attacking the paint, distributing and hitting some threes. Again, down the stretch he came through, hitting on some clutch drives late when the Raps really needed it. Let’s hope he, like Jack, is figuring it out at the quarter pole of the NBA season. Toronto is going nowhere unless they can get consistent production out of Hedo — with his versatility he needs to be able to realize where he’s needed on a game-by-game basis and respond accordingly.
So, can the Raptors bottle Sunday’s effort and bring it nightly? They had better hope so as we enter a crucial stretch of the schedule, on the road in Miami and Orlando this week before hosting the lowly Nets Friday. 3-1 is the goal here although 2-2 is probably more likely.
As the schedule eases, it’s time for the club to play to their potential and get back to .500 and into a playoff seed.
We’ll discuss later the merits of obtaining a low playoff seed in the East and getting chewed up and spat out by one of the top 4 in the first round, as opposed to finishing in the lottery and continuing to re-tool this team.
That’s a huge item for discussion — to be continued.
The Milton Sports Guy is a regular contributor to MiltonSearch.com.
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